Samuel Goldberg has been a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney for 20 years. Prior to that, he was a New York state prosecutor. He has published various articles regarding the practice of criminal law and frequently provides legal analysis on radio and television, appearing on outlets such as the Fox News Channel, Court TV, MSNBC and The BBC Network. To speak to Sam about a criminal matter call (617) 492 3000.

Massachusetts Convict, “Clark Rockefeller”, Adds The Charge Of Murder To His Prior Accomplishments Of Kidnapping And Assault

You might think that the new charges being brought against the man who calls himself “Clark Rockefeller” is likely to be called “The State of California vs. Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter”. It is likely, however, to have the subtitle of “Clark Rockefeller vs. Christia Karl Gerhartsreiter”…particularly if he has any thought of testifying on his own behalf or putting up any character witnesses.

First of all, let’s make all our lives easier and hereafter refer to him as the “Defendant”).

In case you have not heard, the Defendant, now resting semi-comfortably in Commonwealth involuntary housing, has now been charged with a new allegation. This time, it is the crime of a murder which apparently happened over 20 years ago. The authorities in California have filed a complaint in a Los Angeles County courthouse seeking the return of the Defendant to answer for said murder. The process for doing so is called ” extradition”. The issue in this process it whether the person seized is the right person the outside state, in this case California, is seeking. If and when that is established, then California will have a certain amount of time to come and get him…assuming Massachusetts lets him out of their custody to go to California. Since the states have interstate agreements that allow for the transfer of convicts between states so they can be prosecuted on other charges, and said charges involve murder, there is virtually no liklihood that Massahusetts will refuse to give him over.

As to the issue of identity, the state has many different ways to prove who the Defendant is. These include DNA, fingerprints, etc.

The Defendant is believed to be the person who murdered 27-year-old John Sohus. He is also suspected of being involved in the disappearance of Mr. Sohus’ wife.

Currently, the Defendant , 50, is serving a sentence of four to five years in the North Central Correctional Institute at Gardner for the 2008 kidnapping of his daughter, Reigh. A Suffolk County jury convicted him in June 2009 of parental kidnapping and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. He was acquitted of two lesser charges, assault and battery and providing a false name to police.

That matter drew international attention because of the many aliases the Defendant allegedly used to charm his way into select circles in Boston, New York, New Hampshire, and California. At the time, he was already a suspect in the murder. According to California authorities, the Defendant had stayed in the Sohus’ guesthouse when he lived in San Marino, Calif., in the 1980s.

Attorney Sam’s Take On Extradition And Murder Trials:

You may be surprised that a case from so long ago can raise its head from its drawer in the cold case files and return to life. Every crime has a statute of limitations after which prosecution for the crime cannot occur…except murder. There is no statute of limitations in most states for murder.

As noted, the chief issue in an extradition hearing is identity. Of course, we know from the past that identity tends to be a real issue with the Defendant under the best of circumstances.

However, in most cases, the government is able to easily show identity. For this reason, defendants often “waive” extradition so as to avoid the hearing and seem cooperative.

While the idea of putting the Defendant to the test of identity is ironic in itself, let’s turn to the issues raised by his upcoming murder trial.

First of all, should he wish to testify on his own behalf, he already has a few strikes against him. Even before he approaches any witness stand, his credibility is marred. I can only imagine the ways in which any decent cross-examiner can play with the bevy of names to which the Defendant has answered in the past. The fact that he has used so many names cannot help but bring suspicion upon the Defendant and every statement he makes.

Of course, I would expect that his attorney will move the court to preclude any mention of those inconvenient aliases or any evidence which relates to them. One argument would be that they are irrelevant. Maybe. On the other hand, if the Defendant testifies, he makes his credibility relevant.

Speaking of which, if he testifies, the state may be able to bring out his convictions. The defense attorney should, of course, bring a motion to preclude them from coming into evidence too. Most likely, they will only be considered relevant on the issue of his credibility. Different states handle this differently.

Either way, the Defendant has some interesting times ahead. He had best retain experienced counsel in the jurisdiction to represent him. This time, the rest of his life is on the line.

Should you find yourself in this position, and you would like to discuss the possibility of my representing you, please feel free to call me to set up a free initial consultation at 617–492-3000.

To view the original story, please go to: http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2011/03/16/rockefeller_charged_in_85_slaying_of_calif_man/?page=full

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